When it comes to romantic wedding planning, setting aside time to discuss a prenup with your partner probably doesn’t rank.
After all, it means you’re planning for a divorce before you even say I do. Fair point, but if you view a prenuptial agreement as another item on your financial to-do list, you can protect yourselves for a worst-case scenario.
What is a prenup?
Put simply, a prenup determines who gets what assets and debt in the case of divorce. If you do split and you don’t have a prenup in place, state law typically determines who receives marital property. The prenup allows you to tailor the division of assets to your own situation, and which can in turn make the divorce process go much more smoothly should it come to that.
But we have no money! Do we need one?
Since we mostly hear about prenups in situations where boldfaced names are divvying up big houses and fortunes, it makes sense to think that wealth is a prerequisite to a prenup. Not so: It can be helpful to a partner with fewer assets for a variety of reasons. For example, if you've supported your spouse through college or grad school, you can also make sure that money comes back to you in case of a breakup. If you quit your job to raise children, a prenup could specify that you get additional financial support from your spouse, since you may have a harder time finding new employment.
What does a prenup really include?
At its most basic, a prenup will generally specify splitting of assets, wealth and debt, but they can also include a number of lifestyle clauses. Among them, who gets custody of the pets (note: custody arrangements for children are beyond the purview of a prenup), or even financial consequences if a spouse is caught cheating. A more recent addition to prenups is a “goodwill clause” that would prevent either of you from publicly speaking ill toward your ex, and a social media clause that prevents either person from posting disparaging or unflattering images during or after marriage, as well as protecting against revenge porn and the like.
How much will this cost?
An attorney will charge you by the hour for drafting a prenup, and the total cost varies widely. According to Ann-Margaret Carrozza, an estate-planning attorney in New York, “If your finances are straightforward, you can expect to pay between $1,200 and $2,400 total.”
Can I DIY this situation?
Not advisable, says Carrozza. “There are some legal documents that people can do without an attorney, [like a basic will]. But this is not one of them,” Carrozza says. Without an attorney drafting it, a prenup is difficult to enforce. “That’s one of the classic ways to get out of a prenup — by claiming you did not have an opportunity to consult with your own attorney.” In fact, for a prenup to be legal, some states require that each of you to retain your own lawyer, and pay your own legal fees.
Is a prenup set in stone?
It’s changeable, as long as you both agree to it. You'd just revoke the previous agreement, and create a new one. Even better, you can create your original prenup with a timer feature. “A lot of couples draft prenups that disintegrate on their own after, say, 10 years,” Carrozza says. Once this happens, the couple should then revisit the conditions.
We’re already married. Did we miss out?
If you missed the prenup, you can draw up a postnup. Commonly, it’s used to protect the inheritance of the kids you’ve had together. How? If you were to get divorced or pass away, the postnup could specify that your ex or surviving spouse get a prenup before remarrying. Then, if they got divorced again, what used to be your money or assets goes to your children, instead of the new spouse. Infidelity is also at the center of some postnups: Sometimes a spouse is caught cheating, and forgiven, but a postnup drawn up to negotiate a greater asset split to the non-transgressor in the case of it happening again.
Information shown is for illustrative purposes only. Please consult a financial or estate professional for advice specific to your situation.